(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – The 2020 holiday season was unlike any other as the risks of COVID-19 remained too high for families to safely celebrate together. A year later, precautions to slow the spread of the virus and, of course, the availability of vaccines paint a much brighter picture of what this holiday season will look like. But while experts say those who are vaccinated can safely gather in small groups, a new national survey by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center finds many Americans are still very cautious when it comes to holiday parties.
The survey found about half of Americans will ask their guests to wear masks, compared to 67% a year ago, and nearly three-fourths say they will likely only celebrate with members of their household.
“If everyone in attendance is vaccinated and are without major health risks, you can have a safe gathering without a lot of additional precautions. With all guests vaccinated, you don’t need to use masks or force the celebration outdoors. You can have a normal holiday as you would any other year,” said Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “Unvaccinated individuals really pose the greatest threat, and that’s when it becomes necessary to put some rules and precautions in place, even though those conversations can be a little bit awkward.”
According to the survey, that conversation is one many Americans are willing to have. Half of survey respondents say they‘ll ask about guests’ vaccination status, and 46% will require unvaccinated guests to test negative for COVID before attending a gathering.
“If it were me, I would require someone who’s unvaccinated to wear a mask if they were coming to an event that I was holding. Also, I would be interested in knowing if anybody was unvaccinated and unmasked at an event that I was going to attend,” Gonsenhauser said. ”Be aware of the precautionary expectations around you and be ready to adhere to them. That’s going to help everybody have peace of mind and certainly reduce risk as well.”
If you’re traveling for the holidays, it’s also important to check the website of the health department in the area you’re visiting as COVID precautions and mandates change quickly and vary in different states, counties and cities. CDC.gov is also a good resource for the latest information and guidance on safely celebrating the holidays together.